Before my first trip to Belarus as a fifteen-year-old, I, along with the rest of our team, went through extensive training on how to travel overseas. We learned behavioral differences between our country and others (Americans are loud), we learned how to properly and respectfully address the people we would meet, the rules for public transportation, and how to react to a plate of jello filled with sardines if it was placed before you.
Hint: Don’t make gagging noises and push it away. Act normal, swallow hard, and prepare for a culinary adventure.
By the time we left, we were fully ready to conquer the world, and for the most part we did a great job. There were a few instances, of course, when our American senses would overwhelm and we’d let out a shriek of excitement only to be met with the tsks of a nearby Babyshka. And really, no matter how hard you try, you couldn’t parade a group of 15-18 year old Americans down a Belorussian sidewalk in 1994 and not expect some sort of gawking.
Mostly, though, we handled ourselves well. Until that one day…
We made a stop in Frankfurt, Germany on our way home. It was a day and a night to decompress and explore. We grabbed our monstrous, rolling suitcases after making it through customs and in a long line, we made our way to the train that would take us to our hotel.
But there was a problem. We had to get down a long, very narrow escalator in order to get to the train. Perhaps, looking back, wisdom would have dictated that maybe we find an elevator that would better accommodate our bags, but we were running late, so we were instructed to turn our bags sideways and go down.
Only the first person in the group missed the instruction about turning the bag sideways.
He got to the bottom of the escalator and stepped off, but his bag did not budge. It was wedged tight. He yanked and pulled and in the meantime, the person behind him tried to step up and over his bag, only to lose her bag behind her in the process.
On and on it went with each of us trying to dive over the now growing pile of baggage, piling up like the players in a really bad, painfully humiliating rugby match. The ever moving escalator continued to propel everyone behind us downward, though some of the smart ones turned and fought the current to get back to the top.
It was the most hysterical mess as we all tumbled to the bottom, then slowly began to disentangle the unfortunate bags. We brushed ourselves off, held our heads high, and made our way to the train trying to communicate that we weren’t always this cool.
These last few days have felt like another ride on that fateful escalator. As one “bag” after another piled up at the bottom, I could see the mound approaching, and I hoped I could leap over it.
I tripped and fell yesterday. It all hit me. The stress of a job change, last minute flights to Arkansas that had to be changed into last minute flights to Houston for job interviews. Last day of school. Cancer diagnosis. All of life piled up before me, and instead of gracefully leaping over it, I fell miserably, a hyperventilating, panicked mess of a woman who thought she could hold it together.
It’s my fault, really. I forgot I’m pregnant, and that emotions when pregnant tend run a little…um…hotter than normal. I forgot to sleep, and I didn’t eat properly. I tried to do everything, and to be everyone to all my people. I wanted to be the strong one – the one who held it together.
Instead I’m the one who had a panic attack in the school parking lot.
I’m better today. It’s a new day, and releasing a lot of the pent up fears and heartache helped to dislodge the baggage waiting to trip me up. That’s the problem with keeping everything squelched up inside. It’s like trying to fit an oversized rolling bag on an undersized escalator.
It’s bound to cause a fall.
Are you feeling overwhelmed today? Is there a mound of life piling up before you? Before you try to jump over it, can I encourage you to call a friend, or meet with someone face to face who will let you unload some of the emotions?
Trust me – you will much prefer that to hyperventilating in a parking lot. I’m not always this cool, folks…
Here’s to a restful, balanced, baggage free weekend.